$13M raised between a private, public partnership to combat homelessness in Anchorage

The municipality will use $6 million approved by the Anchorage Assembly and $7 million from private donors to provide homeless services and shelter.
Published: Apr. 25, 2022 at 7:05 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The countdown has begun as the Municipality of Anchorage works toward both closing down the Sullivan Arena as a mass homeless shelter, and standing up several other projects to combat homelessness.

The municipality has a goal to transition out of emergency mass care at the Sullivan Arena by June 30.

“The question on everyone’s mind is, have we made any progress on solving the homelessness problem in Anchorage, Alaska,” said Diane Kaplan, CEO of the Rasmuson Foundation. “And the answer is yes.”

The Anchorage Assembly has already appropriated $6 million toward transitioning out of mass care at the Sullivan Arena, and with Alaska philanthropies and corporations committing an additional $7 million, the city has $13 million to ensure stable housing and shelter with services leading to more permanent housing.

Those private donors include: The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, Calista Corp., Chugach Alaska Corp., Doyon Ltd., Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska, Providence Alaska, the Rasmusen Foundation and Weidner Apartment Homes.

On Monday, several different groups got together to address where they are at in terms of moving out of mass care, with the message of “from homeless to stably housed” as they updated the public on the exit strategy plan.

“By June 30, we are going to be closing down our mass care facility, so we have a lot of work to do in the next 60 days to get ready for that June 30 close, and to house as many people as possible and to get them appropriate services,” said assembly member Felix Rivera.

One part of these efforts is working on converting a hotel to create 130 workforce and permanent supportive housing units for people experiencing homelessness, and then in the future creating more than 300 units of housing.

Meg Zaletel with the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness said getting people into housing is the first step.

“It can take all of the trauma and the stress and not set it aside, but at least lighten the load a little bit,” Zaletel said. “Then you’re going to be in a much better position to take advantage of maybe other things like looking for a job, or behavioral health services, or substance misuse services. It’s really hard to be committed to counseling or treatment if you’re living on the streets.”

The other aspects of the exit plan are building a single adult shelter and navigation center at Tudor and Elmore Roads, moving the medically fragile into the Sockeye Inn, opening a 68-bed substance misuse treatment center run by the Salvation Army, and developing a plan to address special populations including women, LGBTQ+, the elderly, and couples.

The overall plan to combat homelessness was formed through a facilitated negotiation process between members of the assembly and of Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration, who compromised on a new plan after clashes between the assembly and administration and an initial proposal for a mass shelter that was shot down.

On Tuesday, the assembly is scheduled to hold a public hearing on a resolution that asks for $6.2 million for the construction of the shelter and navigation center in East Anchorage.

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